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Before we had Ipads and notebooks and even laptop computers we had “luggables”. Luggables were an early type of portable computer. Closer in many respects to a desktop then to what we know as a laptop this was the best early designers could do to make a PC portable and in many cases had to implement bulky technology of the time like large 5 1/4 disk drives and CRT monitor screens. The name comes from the fact that often they were more like luggage that needed to be lugged around then like a laptop that was easily portable and light. In many cases a luggables exceeded 15+ pounds. Another general trait is the need for a power cord and a wall outlet and no battery power severely restricting use while “on the go”. We will be going over two such luggable machines from two ends of the spectrum. The Kaypro 10 a more traditional luggable from earlier days and a later Toshiba T3100 that uses technology like a early gas-plasma screen to reduce weight and size and almost enter the era of the laptop.

Kaypro 10

First up is the Kaypro 10 from 1983.

kprot1

First off I have to say I had two of these systems and both had the same issues of not being able to detect the hard drive as well as freezing up after a few minutes after booting from a floppy. That said I don’t have a lot of experience in using these machines. Also I sold off my two units and forgot to take that many images so :(. The kaypro 10 was part of the successful Kaypro line. From what I’ve read it was one of the first computers  to come with a hard drive. In this case a 10 MB MFM drive. The K10 came with a 5 1/4  double sided double density 390k floppy drive, a 4mhz Z80 CPU, 64kb of RAM and ran CP/M. As you can see the K10 came with a 9′ green screen CRT monitor built in. In the rear there is a printer, serial and modem port as well as the reset and power switch. The keyboard latches on and covers the screen and there is a handle on the back of the machine so you can lug it around like a bulky 15+ pound briefcase. I really wished I could get either of mine working but even if I did these are CP/M machines and CP/M is not known for its gaming.

kprot2

The metal box to the far right is the floppy drive and directly to its left is the hard drive enclosure. Under that motherboard is the CRT tube.

kprot3

Here is the motherboard. not to much to say. That chip directly above the cable labeled MOBO J9 is the Z80 CPU and I think those little chips under the cable are the RAM chips.

kprot4

This is the controller board. It is located on the right side of the machine screwed onto the side of the floppy drive enclosure. This board controls the HDD and FDD. Other then that I don’t have a whole lot to say about the Kaypro 10. I didn’t get to use it much due to the fact both my machines had issues and also I’m not very experienced with the CP/M OS which is primarily a business OS. It is though, a very good example of an early portable PC. The large built in CRT was typical and in the K10s favor the screen is actually big enough to be usable and having a actual hard drive is a huge plus. The thing is not easy to carry around. You don’t need to be the hulk to carry it but its certainly not without effort. I would hate to be the businessman that had to lug this thing to the office and up a flight a stairs on a hot day while in a business suit. Two Kaypro 10’s were apparently used by the medical team in the 1984 Paris-Dakar race and powered by the car battery which I guess at the time was very hi-tech.

Now lets look at the other end of the spectrum at a machine that acts as sort of a missing link between luggables and laptop the

Toshiba T3100

t31002

This machine came out in 1986 and in many ways is far more closely related to the laptop. The main difference is that the T3100 still relies solely on wall outlets for power and has no battery ability like a laptop does. This machine is also in general heavier and more bulky then many early laptops. I found this machine at a local thrift chain and as you can see the screen is a little messed up with vertical lines through it and barely readable. Other then a broken screen the machine boots up with no issues and luckily there is a way around the screen issues I’ll get to in a bit.

The T3100 uses a amber gas-plasma display greatly reducing size and weight from the large CRT in systems such as the Kaypro 10. This machine is powered by a Intel 7.16mhz 286 and sports 640kb of RAM upgradable to 2.6MB. Unlike the K10 this machine is a DOS machine opening up many possibilities. Mine came with DOS  3.2 on its 10MB hard drive. The manual states the CPU can be down clocked to a compatibility mode of 4.77mhz to help run older software but to do this the manual states ” [this] can be done by depressing some keys of the keyboard”. What those keys actually are though is anyone’s guess.

t31001

My T3100 has a standard configuration of a hard drive and a 3 1/3 inch 720kb floppy drive, another technological leap from the K10.

t31005

There is also a port on the rear to add and external 5 1/4 drive and a switch on the left side of the machine to configure A: and B: drives. Now will take a look at the rear of the machine.

t31003

Other then the Power switch and starting from the left we have an expansion port that has a proprietary connector for adding things like a modem or I think memory expansion cards as well. There was also an external base that housed up to five ISA cards that could be used to expand the T3100 abilities. This though would obviously come at the price of the portability. Next to that we have a serial port and then a printer port that also acts as a port for an optional external 5 1/4 drive. Next to that are some DIP switches to set things such as memory and display. I’ll post a chart on that here.

t3100dipAnd lastly we have a very convenient RGB port for hooking the T3100 up to an external CGA monitor.

t31004

This is very nice for situations such as my own where the built in gas-plasma screen is damaged. The CGA chip is fully CGA compatible and has a hi-res 640×400 mode which is very much like the mode in the AT&T 6300 PC which is well, unusual, but in a good way. Lastly I’ll include a layout of the internal motherboard.

t3100mb

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I’m not really a laptop or portable PC guy and prefer the expansion and sturdiness of desktop systems but the T3100 is a decent DOS game machine for what it is, if you can get past the amber monochrome screen. You could add an expansion bay and a CGA monitor but when you do that you defeat the purpose of portability and may as well use a desktop. I think the Kaypro 10 and the T3100 make a good  and interesting example of how luggable PC’s evolved in just a short period of time.

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5 Comments

  1. That’s amazing to see, I didn’t know they had portable systems that early on! Thanks for a great post!

    • there’s even earlier ones. the Osborne 1 is a beast but its CRT screen is ridiculously tiny. some really popular micro computers got portable versions as well. I have a portable Commodore 64 in storage but I’ve never gotten it to work. I think the CRT is dead.

      • Man that was a tiny screen. I’m amazed it could be used for work!

  2. I think that Kaypro is actually one of the later ones as most of them had dual floppy drives instead. Hard disks were very unusual for CP/M as they were still expensive when it died out.

    I have a fairly similar luggable in the from of an Amstrad ALT386 which is a similar design to the Toshiba but built a bit later with a 386sx cpu and VGA. Unfortunately I haven’t had it working in quite a while.

    Sparcie

    • yep, I think there were 2 or 3 Kaypro models before the K10.


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